Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The mystery of life and death

Two high-school classmates - Jim Marquez and Melba de Joya-Alcazar, who have both migrated to the US - informed me last week about the death of another classmate, Vilma Muleta-Montojo, from complications after an open-heart surgery in a hospital in the Philippines. Her demise - on the second day of the new year - came at a least-expected time it reminded me of the popular cliche that death comes like a thief in the night.
Vilma was our third classmate to have died in a span of two years. The two others were Delia Martos and Rogelio Florentino. Jim did not provide details of their deaths but Delia was said to have passed away shortly after attending our class reunion - which Jim, Melba and I failed to attend - last April. It is sad and unsettling to learn about the demise of old acquaintances whom you haven't seen for a long time. It reminds me of life's impermanence and uncertainty.
The news of their death made me hark back to our high school days, which were among the most memorable times of my life. Those were the days when we don't have to worry about making a living and sending children to school. Those were the days when we chase dreams like they were rainbows in an open sky. Those were carefree days when we enjoy living in the vivid colors of our youth.
Jim's e-mail, sent to several classmates, carried a reminder for us to take care of our health, especially "if we ourselves do have personal health issues, minor or major ... to prolong our stay in this world ..." At 68, I still feel young. I don't have hypertension or rheumatism, not even arthritis, that are often associated with old age. I still work, although at times I wish to retire but can't because, having married late, our 14-year-old daughter is only in her second-year of high school. 
But Jim's advice reminded me of how ephemeral and uncertain life is. It made me recall the sudden death of a colleague at the Saudi Gazette where I still work. A health buff who did brisk walking at night, he succumbed to death a few weeks after he was diagnosed of leukemia, which he never had suspected until he felt recurrent headaches and frequent feeling of fatigue. The diagnosis came too late.
Vilma died a few weeks after the well-known British writer Christopher Hitchens died of pneumonia, a complication of esophageal cancer at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Hitchens' death summoned back the poem "Death the Leveller" by James Shirley which we took up in our literature class in high school. The poem tells us that whether we are king or slave, famous or not, we are equal in the hands of the scythe-bearer and that our pursuits for wealth, power and fame are meaningless.
"The glories of our blood and state/ Are shadows, not substantial things; There is no armour against Fate; Death lays his icy hands on kings;/ Sceptre and Crown/ Must tumble down,/ and in dust be equal made/ With the poor crooked scythe and spade," says the poem in its opening lines.
It ends with "The garlands wither in your brow./Then boast no more your mighty deeds!/ Upon Death's purple altar now/ See where the victor-victim bleeds/ Your heads must come/ To the cold tomb; only the actions of the just/Smell sweet and blossom in their dust."
The Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible carries the same theme: all our worldly endeavors are just like "chasing the winds". Shakespeare tells us a similar message in Macbeth: "Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player/ That struts his hour upon the stage/ And then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/ Signifying nothing."
Death is a brainchild of life. Without life, there could be no death. But why should  we have to undergo the cycle of birth and death? I heard or read somewhere that life is like a seed - it has to die to be able to grow a new life. Of course, that does not explain the mystery of life and death, which probably could only be unraveled in the afterlife.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

OFWs keep Christmas lights aglow

OFWs keep Christmas lights aglow


CHRISTMAS LIGHTS go up as early as September in the De Vera family home. L-R: Alex de Vera, wife Edith (fourth, left), daughters Sofiah (second, left), Kaithlyn (third, left), Ayesha (right) and son Adrian.

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia—As early as September, Alex de Vera and his family had fixed  up a Christmas tree in their living room. Like most Christian Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, the de Veras tuck away a Christmas tree ready to be set up for the season.
“We start fixing our Christmas tree when ‘ber’ steps into the calendar,” says Alex in their home, a three-bedroom rented flat in Jeddah’s Musreffah district. “We keep our Christmas tree in a storeroom, along with the decorations, and set it up usually in September.”
Although practicing religion apart from Islam is not allowed in Saudi Arabia, Christian Filipinos have kept the Christmas tradition alive in the privacy of their homes. There are no lanterns or parols hanging outside doors and windows but the Christmas tree is ubiquitous in every Christian Filipino’s living room.
It’s actually no hassle getting a Christmas tree in this oil-rich kingdom. Synthetic Christmas trees, well-kept in boxes, are sold in variety stores in commercial centers that cater to Filipinos. And Christmas lights are sold in big supermarkets.
That makes it easy for the family of Jonathan Padua to change their Christmas tree almost every year. “We started with a tiny Christmas tree years ago and then it became bigger and bigger as years went by,” says Jonathan. “Christmas trees and decor are found in shops popular among Filipinos.”
What Pinoys miss
What the Filipinos in Saudi Arabia miss are the din of rush-hour Christmas shopping, the Misa de Gallo, traditional rice cakes like puto bumbong and bibingka sold in the vicinity of churches, the sound of firecrackers, San Miguel beer or Carlsberg and the exasperating heavy traffic. But food is in abundance here and parties abound.
Parties in Jeddah are held a few days before or after Christmas Day in Filipino restaurants, homes or resorts with private villas. The Christmas Eve noche buena is usually reserved for the family and close friends.
When the parties fall on a Thursday, which is equivalent to Saturday in the Philippines, they usually last until the wee hours or the first crack of dawn, with the partygoers sleeping on Friday, the rest day in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries in the Middle East.

PARTIES AND GAMES with close friends is the usual Padua family activity. From right, Jonathan Padua, daughter Jannis, wife Wilma and son Jan Lorenz.
“Although we are not allowed to practice our faith openly, I’m amazed at how much freedom we have in celebrating Christmas here. I can’t count how many pre-Christmas and post-Christmas party invitations we receive (every year),” says Ahjid Sayas.
Decorating their homes
Home for the Sayases is a rented apartment where Christmas garlands and Christmas stockings are tacked up by his wife Juliet on doors and walls, along with other Christmas decor.  “We inherited the garlands from a friend who had left for good but the other decor were made by Juliet,” Ahjid quips.
The Sayases and other Christmas celebrants shop for gifts a few weeks before Christmas Day, but buy their groceries for noche buena a day or two before Christmas Eve because traffic is relatively light in Jeddah and most of the Filipino families here have cars. Those who don’t, usually the new comers,  can easily take the taxi cabs.
And what do the Sayases prepare for noche Buena?
“We usually have soup and cheese sticks for starters. Beef, chicken, fish and seafood dishes for the main courses. Sweets include buko pandan, which I prepare, and brazo de mercedes, courtesy of Juliet,” recalls Ahjid.
Biko and spaghetti
For the De Veras, who prefer “solemn moments” on Christmas Eve, Alex says, “it’s what the Filipinos usually have for noche buena back home. There are a lot of dishes which Edith prepares but I can’t really recall all.”
So Edith, his wife, butts in:  “It depends. I prepare when Christmas Day falls on a Friday, the rest day, and the children have no classes. I prepare pansit, biko, chicken teriyaki, beef barbeque, salad and of course spaghetti for the kids. This Christmas, which falls on a weekday, I may prepare just enough for dinner on Christmas Eve because the following day they won’t be at home. That’s when you think of Christmas in the Philippines.”
The Paduas had not made up their minds on what food to prepare for this year’s noche buena but Jonathan says, “last year the ones I can remember were kaldereta, roasted Peking duck, afritada, ube, veggies, among others.” The Paduas spend Christmas Eve with close friends. They call each other up before Christmas Eve to decide in whose house they will hold a joint celebration.

SAPIN-SAPIN AND BUKO PANDAN will be on the noche buena spread of the Sayas family. From right, Ahjid Sayas, wife Juliet and son Jeremy.
Longing for home
Although Christmas celebrations here are not wanting when it comes to food and things that money can buy, the season brings a deep sense of longing for the home country. It is a time when memories are prone to fly on the wings of nostalgia to the families left behind—the parents and siblings, nieces and nephews, and even friends. It is the time when the impulse to make an overseas call reigns.
“Here, there is lots of food… but this also makes you think of the families back home, of what they have for the noche buena, and wish that they have as much as we have on our dining table,” says Ahjid.
“There’s a sense of longing, a void somewhere in our hearts. With loved ones around, even a simple celebration is grand.”
Like most Christian Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, the Sayases make long-distance calls to their families in the Philippines on Christmas Day.
“Well, the celebration here is fine, OK na rin. But it’s really different in the Philippines. The children miss so many things,” says Alex, who has four children—a boy and three girls, aged 12 to 5, the youngest of whom has not yet spent Christmas in the Philippines.
Shorter celebrations
“In the Philippines, you feel the Christmas atmosphere throughout the season. Here, you feel the excitement of Christmas only on Christmas Day itself and then everything returns to normal until the New Year when we have another celebration.”
“We always celebrate Christmas wherever we are. However, we feel Christmas to be happier when our relatives and loved ones are celebrating this special day with us,” says Johathan, whose family has spent Christmas in the Philippines only twice since they came to Jeddah in 2000.
“Definitely, Christmas in the Philippines is merrier. You can feel the Christmas ambiance throughout the season. Christmas carols are played everywhere, you can see Christmas decorations wherever you go and feel the family excitement at the malls. Here, Christmas ends right after Christmas Day.”
This Christmas, which falls on a Sunday, the Filipinos will spend Christmas Day at work, except for those who may take a leave of absence for lack of sleep.  What will remain to remind them of the Yuletide are the leftovers and the Christmas trees that will stay in their living rooms until the Feast of the Three Kings.

Below is the Inquirer's link to the story

OFWs keep Christmas lights aglow

Thursday, December 22, 2011

True story of a Filipino beauty queen

Patrician Javier and husband Dr. Robert Walcher
This is a true story of Genesis Canlapan, known in Philippine movies as bold star Patricia Javier. I am posting this in the spirit of Christmas. May we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in a profound way, far beyond the din of Christmas parties. May Javier's testimony in video, which I posted below, lead to conversion of hearts to make us grasp the power of faith.
The testimony is done in Tagalog, the major language in the Philippines. For the benefit of those who do not understand the language, I am reconstructing her story. I wanted to translate the testimony and the narrator's intro and side comments but I found many Tagalog idioms and cliches very difficult to translate and feel that I may lose the elegance of the prose in the translation.

So here's her story based on the video. I tried to do some research in the Internet but found only a scanty information about Javier's personal life.

Patricia came from a poor family. In her adolescence, her parents separated. She and her siblings stayed with their mother. To help her mother provide for the family, Patricia joined beauty pageants to pursue a dream and for the prizes which helped to tide things over. Her break came when she joined the country's  most prestigious beauty pageant, Binibining Pilipinas or Miss Philippines.
Although she did not win the title, the Bb. Pilipinas pageant opened doors for her into the Philippine movies. As her star rose in show business, she quickly built a fortune she had dreamed of.  "From nothing we have built a beautiful home, I was able to travel to many places and met people I had never imagined of meeting in my life," she said in her testimony.
But she paid a high prize for her dream. Appearing mostly in flesh flicks, she allowed herself to be used by men who could give her the luxury in life or more movie breaks. In her testimony, she said that she was happy for a while until she found out that something was missing in her life. That drove her into drugs.
"I really used my body to get what I wanted in life. For a while I was happy but there came a time when I became insecure, I wanted ... (to live  a new life), to have a husband who respects me. I hated women who allowed themselves to became mistresses of married men, but then I found myself in the same situation. I tried drugs to escape from that reality. I admit I tried ecstasy," she confessed.
It was at this point that her mother talked to her thoroughly. "She told me 'everything that you have done for us boils down to nothing. You have given us a good life but you are ruining yourself'," she remembered her mother telling her. "I felt more depressed, I felt remorse for everything I had done, I realized  that I was sinning."
As it is often said God will work in mysterious ways if you would only seek His help and live a life in keeping with His counsels in the Scriptures. Patricia, who went to the United States for some show biz engagements, meet a Christian who invited her to join a church congregation. Despite her fears that she might lose her career that provided her fortune, she attended church meetings and services and found changes in her life.
"I just kept on attending and then I felt that God was working in me, I felt changes in my life. I forgot all my insecurities, what I had done in the past ... I did not think of the men in my life anymore, the material things. I felt like God was telling me that you will find happiness if you will follow me. I began to realize, so that's it when God is in your heart," she said.
It was then that she met her future husband, Dr. Robert Walcher. When she returned to Philippines after her show biz engagement, people who knew her were surprised at how she had changed. Shortly after, she married Dr. Walcher.
"My name, Genesis, means the beginning. I told myself 'this is the beginning of a new life'," she said toward the concluding part of her testimony. "I said 'God I am giving my life to you, I trust my life to your care'."

Patricia's story reminds me of counsel in Proverbs: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; never lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will show you the right path."

Here's the video.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A day in life

My niece Lala offered an apology in response to my query why she had not been responding to my emails lately. I had asked her if she was angry either with me or my wife and demanded that she should tell me why. "Sorry if I gave you an impression that I am angry because I failed to respond. I am not upset. Things are just crazier in the office nowadays. My responsibilities got greater and my rest lesser," she emailed back.
My niece, who we fondly call Darling, has just been promoted to assistant manager in a multinational bank with branch offices in Metro Manila. We have always treated her and her two siblings like our own children. She calls me Dad and my wife Mom. "Dad I am asking for more understanding now that I am in a new phase of my career. It's not easy. I hate (office) politics and there's more of it now. But I have to dance to the tune to stay in the game," she wrote.
I felt a mixture of guilt and pity while I read her email at the office. I hate office politics myself and that's the primary reason why I have never aspired for a higher position since I became a subeditor with Today newspaper in Manila in 1995. I am contented editing articles for the pages I handle and then putting the pages to bed in my small corner of the newsroom. A higher position would mean handling people. I have no grit for that. I am soft.
I know there are people who thrive in office politics, specially those who are young and who find it to be part of the challenges in our quest to get ahead in life. I find it stressful, primarily because I have a  weak personality. But I know that even people with stout heart and steel nerves can succumb to stress that goes along with the hurried and harried life in the corporate world where stress becomes greater as you rise higher.
After reading her email, I emailed her back as quickly as I could, offering my own apology for adding to her worries and giving an assurance that I fully understood her and that we love her. There was no time to write a long response. There was no time either to linger in a fleeting memory of green meadows and bright stars in a clear sky which I used to see when I was young. I had to buckle down to work to meet my deadline.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Remembering a distant past

Reunion of the Romblon High School Batch '61 in April 2011
at the house of Benita Reyes in Sawang, Romblon, Romblon
A set of reunion pictures sent to me by a high school classmate revived not only my memories of the past but also the question about life's meaning that I have been grappling with since I was in college. We belong to Batch '61 of the Romblon High School in a small town called Romblon in the heart of the Philippines. That means that we are now more than 60 years old.
The first time I looked at the pictures, I could hardly recognize most of my former classmates. I had to compare notes - by email - with another classmate, Jim Marquez, who is now in the US. Since both of us were not at the reunion, we made a little guesswork and agreed on Napoleon Lim, our salutatorian we fondly called by his nickname Dandette.
Dandette, who could have been the dream boy of many girls because he was not only brainy but also handsome, was a son of a prosperous businessmen in Romblon, a small town in a province after which the town was named. So it did not come as a surprise to me that he became an engineer. What I heard of him was that he became an executive of a multinational oil company with offices in Manila.
The women in the pictures, most of whom were pretty when we were young, still have traces of their youthful glory. But the ravages of time have undeniably taken their toll. It is futile to deny that time, reputed to be a great healer, is a lousy beautician. I have always remained young at heart but the pictures reminded me that we are now in the twilight years of our lives.
I remember having surreptitiously inserted love letters in the books of some of the girls with whom I had a crush. The letters were signed Doveglion, the pen name of the famous Filipino poet Jose Garcia Villa. I did not have the courage to sign my own name on the letters not because I did not like the name with which I was christened but because I was so dark and ... well, neither tall nor handsome.
A farmhand, I was shy then, a loner who would melt under the spotlight. I remember having just two close friends in our class - Rolando Mingoa, who lived in a farming village next to one where I lived, and Victor Lagman, whose family came from Davao del Norte down south.
The dictum that birds of the same feather flock together applied to the three of us. Rolando, nicknamed Lando, and Victor, who was Vic to those who knew him, were not social mixers as well.
I have a fond memory of Vic - my seat mate in fourth year - during a quiz in Literature. Sensing perhaps that I hadn't studied the previous night, he left his answers wide open and told me to copy. "No, thanks," I declined.

The administration building of the Romblon National High School,
formerly Romblon High School, and part of the marble grandstand.
We never talked about the incident after the test, which I passed with just a little above the borderline grade, but I knew that I had gained his respect. We often sat together at the marble grandstand during PE watching other students playing on the ground - with a few moments of conversations once in a while. It was friendship that thrived even in silence.
Lando came from a village called Agnipa, about two kilometers from Ginablan where my sister and I lived with the family of my uncle after my father died in Bacolod City where I was born. Lando and I both dreamed of going to college, although we knew how enormous were the challenges before us, particularly because there was no college in Romblon, Romblon, then.
Lando's family had a tract of land whose produce wasn't enough to send him to college in Manila or in any other city. He wanted to become an engineer and so did I. Despite the odds, we kept on dreaming and believing in the saying that, "if there's a will, there's a way." After graduation, Lando left for Manila. I went to Bacolod, which I was familiar with, a year later. My journey to Bacolod later took me to Batangas and Manila a few years thereafter.
The athletic field and one of the two wooden grandstands.
I agree with people who say that the best time in our lives was our high school days. Those were the days when we started dreaming of our future and did not have much cares for the here and now. I recall the dying days of our senior year when we were asked by some of our classmates to write in their slum books on what we wanted to be and other personal circumstances.
I remember that apart from my dream to become an engineer, I added an entry that I wanted to own a ranch. That entry caught the attention of a classmate, Arturo Fabellon, who kidded me that I could easily fulfill that dream if I would settle for a ranch with only one or two cows. I did not mind him. Youth was a time for both dreams and fantasies.
Most of our classmates became what they wanted to be. Dandette became an engineer. Senia Galindez became a teacher and so did Vilma Muleta,Yolanda Mindo, Melba de Joya, Arturo Fabellon and Wilmo Fallar. Jim Marquez became an architect and Vicky Uy a nurse. I haven't heard on what happened to Ruben Famorcan, our valedictorian, and had lost contact with Lando and Vic.
There were more than 50 of us in Batch '61 and it isn't possible to keep track of each of us. In the pictures sent to me by Benita Reyes, who has settled in a village called Sawang after working in London, I did not see Ronaldo Platon, who was among the popular guys in our batch, Louie Morente, whom I courted quietly, and Leny Capa, who was so demure you could put her on a pedestal.
I did not become an engineer and that's a long story that may take a book to write. But in a nutshell, I realized when I was working on my way to college - first as a construction laborer and later as a security guard - that an engineering course was too expensive for me to pursue. That convinced me that our fate is not always in our hands, no matter if Shakespeare tells us that our destiny is not written in the stars.
My destiny was written in the stars since I started to develop a passion for writing when I was in high school.  Although I was just an above-average student in my academic subjects, I was getting very high grades in formal themes. Knowing my passion for writing, a friend advised me to take journalism when I was about to enroll at the Lyceum of the Philippines in Manila later.
Let me take a little ego trip.
In high school, I remember that one of our English teachers, Mrs. Amelia Festin, once called me to the teachers' room. With my formal-theme writings on her desk, she told me I had a knack for writing and advised me to keep the writing torch burning. Another English teacher, Miss Milagros Mayor, a distant relative who became Mrs. Gutierrez, had asked me once to take the entry exams for staff members of The Marble, the school paper. Dreading competition, I did not take the tests.
I dreaded competition in high school. That was why I always wanted to be in Section 2. But in fourth year, I wasn't allowed to go back to my home section where I was king.
There were two important lessons I learned in life. First, we have to dream. That's the same advice the fairy tale Cinderella gives us. Second, we have to learn how to  appreciate whatever blessings that come our way. Life will lose its meaning if we do not enjoy it. But enjoying life does not necessarily mean going to parties or outings. You can enjoy life even in silence.
In the twilight years of our lives, I am reminded of the famous Shakespearean line that life is "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing". The Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible has another version for that - all our worldly endeavors are just like chasing the winds.
Having said that, let me leave a small reminder to close this article. In life's dying embers, may we realize that however we highly think of ourselves we are no more than pilgrims in this world and that our lives are just fleeting shadows of our dreams and passions.

Please visit my other blogs Miscelleous at, Viajero at and Fun in Life at

To my classmates. You may want to read my book "The Gypsy Soul and Other Essays" which is available at and Barnes and Noble. The book image is on the top-left side of this blog. Just click the image, it will direct you to
I extend the same invitation to other readers.
I hope I could launch another book next year, That's a dream.
Have a nice day.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Catholics, Muslims pursue dialogue amid Mideast tension

* Catholic-Muslim Forum debates role of reason in religion
* Meeting shows progress since pope sparked protests in 2006
* Disagreements persist but are debated openly

By Tom Heneghan
Religion Editor

BETHANY BEYOND THE JORDAN, Jordan, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Only five years ago, critical remarks by Pope Benedict about Islam sparked off violent protests in several Muslim countries.
Never very good, relations between the world's two largest religions sank to new lows in modern times.
This week, while protesters in the Arab world were demanding democracy and civil rights, Catholics and Muslims met along the Jordan River for frank and friendly talks about their differences and how to get beyond their misunderstandings.
The Catholic-Muslim Forum, which grew out of the tensions following Benedict's speech in the German city of Regensburg, was overshadowed by events in Egypt, Yemen and Syria. The lack of any dramatic news here reflected the progress the two sides have made since 2006.
"We have passed from formal dialogue to a dialogue between friends," Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, head of the Vatican's department for interfaith dialogue, said at the conference held near the Jordan River site believed to be where Jesus was baptised. "We realised that we have a common heritage,"
Recalling the strains that prompted Muslims to suggest a dialogue in 2007, Jordan's Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal said: "Since then, despite some misunderstandings, I dare say the general Muslim-Catholic ambiance has ameliorated considerably."
The 24 Catholic and 24 Muslim religious leaders, scholars and educators meeting here debated how each religion uses reason to strengthen insight into its beliefs. Roman Catholicism has long argued that faith without reason can breed superstition while nihilism can emerge from reason without faith.


This was the core message of Benedict's Regensburg speech, but it was drowned out when he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor describing Islam as violent and irrational. Radical Islamists responded with violent protests.
After he expressed his regrets, 38 Muslim scholars wrote to the pope suggesting a meeting to discuss misreading of Islam they found in his text.
Benedict, who had long thought interfaith dialogue could blur differences between religions, did not reply. He believed discussing theology was all but impossible because they do not analyse the Koran as Christians and Jews do their scriptures.
A year later, 138 Muslim scholars issued a broader appeal to all Christian churches to discuss the commands of love of God and neighbour that both faiths shared. Led by Prince Ghazi, the group included several grand muftis as well as leading Islamic intellectuals from around the Muslim world.
This time, the Vatican reluctantly agreed and hosted the first Catholic-Muslim Forum in November 2008 in Rome.
That meeting was a watershed, allowing Catholics and Muslims to discuss theology seriously instead of simply holding a polite meeting ending with pious calls for peace and understanding.
Although he only met the Muslims at a formal session in the Vatican, Benedict was a quick learner. By May 2009, when he visited Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, the pope echoed their arguments and eased the quest for common ground.


Three years after the introductory session, the second Forum on Nov 21-23 focused on the relationship between faith and reason.
Ibrahim Kalin, a Turkish philosopher who is now chief policy advisor to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, explained how Islam also argues that faith must be tempered by reason.
In the main Catholic presentation, Italian philosopher Vittorio Possenti explained how Catholic teaching stresses the intrinsic value and natural rights of every human being.
"There's a common sense of the urgency and importance of this meeting, even though the context and background we're coming from are quite different," said Archbishop Kevin McDonald, the top Catholic official for interfaith dialogue in England and Wales.
The Arab Spring uprisings this year have changed the context, especially by allowing Islamist parties to operate more freely in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
This has also opened the door to the Salafists, radical Islamists who have attacked Egypt's Coptic Christian minority and spread fear among Christians across the Middle East,


Aref Ali Nayed, a Libyan theologian who joined his country's revolutionaries and is now Tripoli's ambassador in the United Arab Emirates, said the role of faith in the emerging political systems highlighted the need for reasonable religion to prevail.
"It is extremely important that the massive movements we are experiencing today do not happen at the level of irrationality or mere emotion," he said.
"Such movements must be guided by the light of faith, but reasoned faith that encourages thinking and dialogue."
Strains emerged at some of the closed-door talks, especially on the issue of whether Muslims can convert to Christianity.
One Catholic noted the Church could not accept any converts in the Gulf countries but Christian foreign workers there who switched to Islam got a warm public welcome to their new faith.
Another asked why Muslims would not respect the choice made by people who sincerely wanted to convert despite all the problems they knew would come. In response, a Muslim said Islamic countries remained wary because too many conversions were forced in the past.
Some Muslims also expressed difficulty in understanding how the Catholic Church could open dialogue with other faiths after its Second Vatican Council in the 1960s after avoiding it for almost two millennia before that.
They also suggested the Catholics had given in too much to modern secularism and not protested enough against depictions of Jesus that Muslims considered blasphemous.
Still, the strength of their current ties showed when, during a break on the final day, delegates swapped jokes about religion. Bosnia's Chief Mufti Mustafa Ceric turned out to be group's stand-up comedian.
"Did you hear about the preacher and taxi driver?" the Sarajevo-based cleric asked. "When they died and came before God, He sent the preacher to hell and the taxi driver to heaven.
"When the preacher asked why, God said 'When you preached, you put people to sleep. But he used to drive his taxi so fast that he made all his passengers pray for eternal salvation'."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ten principles for peace of mind

1. Do Not Interfere In Others' Business Unless Asked:
Most of us create our own problems by interfering too often in others' affairs. We do so because somehow we have convinced ourselves that our way is the best way, our logic is the perfect logic and those who do not conform to our thinking must be criticized and steered to the right direction, our direction. This thinking denies the existence of individuality and consequently the existence of God. God has created each one of us in a unique way. No two human beings can think or act in exactly the same way. All men or women act the way they do because God within them prompts them that way. Mind your own business and you will keep your peace.

2. Forgive And Forget:
This is the most powerful aid to peace of mind. We often develop ill feelings inside our heart for the person who insults us or harms us. We nurture grievances. This in turn results in loss of sleep, development of stomach ulcers, and high blood pressure. This insult or injury was done once, but nourishing of grievance goes on forever by constantly remembering it. Get over this bad habit. Life is too short to waste in such trifles. Forgive, Forget, and march on. Love flourishes in giving and forgiving.

3. Do Not Crave For Recognition:
This world is full of selfish people. They seldom praise anybody without selfish motives. They may praise you today because you are in power, but no sooner than you are powerless, they will forget your achievement and will start finding faults in you. Why do you wish to kill yours in striving for their recognition? Their recognition is not worth the aggravation. Do your duties ethically and sincerely.

4. Do Not Be Jealous:
We all have experienced how jealousy can disturb our peace of mind. You know that you work harder than your colleagues in the office, but sometimes they get promotions; you do not. You started a business several years ago, but you are not as successful as your neighbor whose business is only one year old. There are several examples like these in everyday life. Should you be jealous? No. Remember everybody's life is shaped by his/her destiny, which has now become his/her reality. If you are destined to be rich, nothing in the world can stop you. If you are not so destined, no one can help you either. Nothing will be gained by blaming others for your misfortune. Jealousy will not get you anywhere; it will only take away your peace of mind.

5. Change Yourself According To The Environment:
If you try to change the environment single-handedly, the chances are you will fail. Instead, change yourself to suit your environment. As you do this, even the environment, which has been unfriendly to you, will mysteriously change and seem congenial and harmonious.

6. Endure What Cannot Be Cured:
This is the best way to turn a disadvantage into an advantage. Every day we face numerous inconveniences, ailments, irritations, and accidents that are beyond our control. If we cannot control them or change them, we must learn to put up with these things. We must learn to endure them cheerfully. Believe in yourself and you will gain in terms of patience, inner strength and will power.

7. Do Not Bite Off More Than You Can Chew:
This maxim needs to be remembered constantly. We often tend to take more responsibilities than we are capable of carrying out. This is done to satisfy our ego. Know your limitations. . Why take on additional loads that may create more worries? You cannot gain peace of mind by expanding your external activities. Reduce your material engagements and spend time in prayer, introspection and meditation. This will reduce those thoughts in your mind that make you restless. Uncluttered mind will produce greater peace of mind.

8. Meditate Regularly:
Meditation calms the mind and gets rid of disturbing thoughts. This is the highest state of peace of mind. Try and experience it yourself. If you meditate earnestly for half an hour everyday, your mind will tend to become peaceful during the remaining twenty-three and half-hours. Your mind will not be easily disturbed as it was before. You would benefit by gradually increasing the period of daily meditation. You may think that this will interfere with your daily work. On the contrary, this will increase your efficiency and you will be able to produce better results in less time.

9. Never Leave The Mind Vacant:
An empty mind is the devil's workshop. All evil actions start in the vacant mind. Keep your mind occupied in something positive, something worthwhile. Actively follow a hobby. Do something that holds your interest. You must decide what you value more: money or peace of mind. Your hobby, like social work or religious work, may not always earn you more money, but you will have a sense of fulfillment and achievement. Even when you are resting physically, occupy yourself in healthy reading or mental chanting of God's name.

10. Do Not Procrastinate And Never Regret:
Do not waste time in protracted wondering “should I or shouldn't I?” Days, weeks, months, and years may be wasted in that futile mental debating. You can never plan enough because you can never anticipate all future happenings. Value your time and do the things that need to be done. It does not matter if you fail the first time. You can learn from your mistakes and succeed the next time. Sitting back and worrying will lead to nothing. Learn from your mistakes, but do not brood over the past. DO NOT REGRET. Whatever happened was destined to happen only that way. Why cry over spilt milk?

"Spread Love everywhere you go. Let no one come to you without leaving happier "
Mother Teresa

Lifted from the blog of Masterwordsmith.